Licorice, Tivoli Gardens and Freetown Christiana

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This picture taken in Freetown Christiana is one of the places where photos are allowed. The unique autonomous anarchist community frowns upon photos in most areas.

Licorice, Tivoli Gardens and Freetown Christiana.   What do these three vastly different things have in common? Well, they are all located in Copenhagen, so there is that. But like the multitude of bike riders that roll through the Danish city each day, each offers a distinctly unique version of the Danish lifestyle, so I thought I would lump them together for my post today.

Lakrids, Lakrids Everywhere!

The word lakrids strangely conjures up images of water bugs to me, but it is actually the Danish word for “licorice.”  Since Carolyn is a huge fan of this bittersweet root candy, when we saw some beautiful hard candies in The Viking Museum that the cashier said were licorice, she jumped at the chance to try some.  Since I’m not a big licorice fan, I passed when she offered me one the first time, and her comment when she tasted them were that they were “different.”

Heads up.  This ain’t your grandma’s licorice.

Later she offered Mike one and I decided to take the plunge with him.  The taste was very, very different. Salty, weirdly so, with a strong bitter licorice flavor that was almost medicinal.  Mike promptly spit his out of the car window and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t finish that.”  I tried to be more polite and sucked mine to the end, but it was difficult. I vacillated between wanting to spit mine out and silently judging Mike for not seeing his through to the end.

According the the official Danish website, Denmark produces some of the strongest liquorices in the world. “Salty liquorice is a speciality in Denmark and contains a large amount of ammonium chloride (salmiac),” the website states. “The brand Ga-Jol is Denmark’s most popular liquorice candy, with the Danes consuming over 600 million each year.”  That’s a lot of licorice.

There is even a two-day festival each year in Copenhagen devoted to, you guessed it, licorice.

They also put it in just about everything: beer, fudge, even ice cream.

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The store Lakrids by Johan Bülow in Tivoli Gardens specializes in all things licorice.

When we visited Tivoli Gardens, there was a whole store devoted to just licorice. I was definitely a little scared after the whole hard candy incident at the museum, but when Carolyn pushed forward into the licorice store at Tivoli, I followed her in.  I mean, how often do you get to visit a licorice store? When we walked in, the sales clerk was handing out samples and because the licorice was covered in chocolate, I decided to give it a second chance.

It turned out to be incredibly delicious, and I was so impressed that between Carolyn and I sampling so many of the candies, I think we upset the sales clerk.  But then Carolyn bought three packages of them, and I bought a pack at the airport on the way home, so I think we balanced out their losses.

Back at our Airbnb the next morning, I went to go throw out the coffee grounds, and I saw the trash was sprinkled throughout with the beautiful little hard licorice candies Carolyn had bought at the museum. I looked around for the guilty party. “Who threw the licorice away?” James, who hadn’t been at the museum with us, very matter-of-factly said, “I did. Those were nasty.”

And that was that.

Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli Gardens is an old amusement park right in the center of Copenhagen and offers another unique attribute to this wonderful city.  Copenhagen’s beautiful buildings tower over this charming vintage amusement park and harken back to the era of simpler entertainment and family fun.  According to the Visit Denmark website, the park opened on August 15, 1843 and is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world.

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Mike and James at the entrance to Tivoli Gardens.

The beautiful place was like taking a step back in time, very charming and nostalgic, but I think it is probably a much prettier place in the spring once the weather is a little warmer, and the trees and flowers are in bloom.  I can definitely see why they shut down in the winter.  We went on the opening night of the park on a rather frigid March evening, and the crowds were a little sparse at first and it was freezing cold. Still, Danish children ran around with cotton candy (was it licorice flavored?) and thrill-seekers rode the Dæmon (The Demon) rollercoaster screaming their heads off as they flipped upside down and every which way.

Tivoli Gardens also has the world’s oldest wooden roller coaster that is still in operation called the Rutschebanen that was built in 1914. It is also called the Bjergbanen (The Mountain Coaster) because it travels around a small mountain.  All in all, I think Tivoli Gardens is a must-see, especially since it is said to have inspired Walt Disney, but only if you like theme-parks. And definitely wait until the weather is warmer…

Freetown  Christiana

One of the most unique places in Copenhagen has to be Freetown Christiana, an “autonomous anarchist” community where people live a green-life without cars or property ownership.  According to the Visit Denmark website, it was established in 1971 “by a group of hippies who occupied some abandoned military barracks on the site and developed their own set of society rules, completely independent of the Danish government.”

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It was a pretty crazy place to visit with wooden booths set up in one area called Pusher St. where merchants sat selling large chunks of hash and other marijuana items. Just a few people were stoned when we walked through and it felt pretty safe overall, but we visited in the morning hours. The night hours could be different, so be careful.

As we ambled around, I felt like I was in a time warp although I enjoyed looking at the different houses and buildings; some had artwork painted on them, and some had cool mosaics like the one above.  One home was built into a hill like a bunker and it’s door was so small it looked like a hobbit house.

It felt like stepping back to what I would imagine a 70s hippie commune would be like, so if you want to see a really “far out” place in Copenhagen, walk through Christiana.

Just don’t take pictures because apparently “what happens in Christiana, stays in Christiana.”  It’s drug activities are illegal elsewhere in Copenhagen as well as Denmark.

Stairway to Heaven at Vor Frelsers Kirke

Who says you can’t climb a stairway to heaven? One of the first things Mike and I did after we arrived in Copenhagen was climb the stairs of the incredible Vor Frelsers Kirke.

First things first, “kirke” is the word for “church” in Danish and Vor Frelsers Kirke in English means “Our Savior’s Church.”  Many of the Copenhagen city maps have the tourist spots in Danish (which is only natural) and if you go looking for Our Saviors Church, you are not going to find it on the map in English. However, if you are anywhere in or near the Christianshavn neighborhood, all you need to do is look up at the massive black and gold spire and you will find the majestic Vor Frelsers Kirke.

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The spire has something magical about it that draws you in with its golden spiral staircase and the large gold globe at the top of it.

It has a magnificent presence towering over the streets of Christianshavn.

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According to the church’s website, the red brick facade of the church was built in 1680 in the baroque style and consecrated in 1696.  The tower wasn’t consecrated until 1752 and it’s imposing presence stands over 300 feet (95 meters) high.  The wooden steps leading up to it are a little shaky and worn and lend to the excitement as you climb the 400 steps to the top.

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The last 150 steps are outside and wind around the tower. The day we went there was ice on quite a few of them, so they were a little slippery, thus with the wind made the climb even more scary.  Here are the different views of the city that you are able to see as you ascended:

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This is not a climb for the faint of heart, but it is so worth it if you are able to muster up the courage and energy to attempt it.  I did see some older people (older than me, that is!) climbing the stairs, so if you visit right before the church closes like we did and have the stairs pretty much to yourself, you could probably take your time to get to the top.  It was one of my favorite things that I did in Copenhagen, so I highly recommend you get over your fear and go for it if you can.

Along the way up the countless steps there were some interesting sights to say the least to keep you occupied.

First,  a few jailed stone cherubs. This fellow was about five feet tall, so he was pretty impressive:

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An incredible mess of gears with a Ferdinand the IV emblem on it.  I’m not sure what this was for (perhaps for the clock on the bell tower?), but it was very interesting:

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A fluorescent array of teacups were also seen on the way up on a large shell-type display.  Either that or somebody had a wild tea party the night before and left their dishes:

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Before you enter the outside steps there is a large carillon, which is musical instrument consisting of a number of bronze bells, housed in the tower.  We heard the bells chiming as we ascended and it was quite eery.

A few of the carillon bells in the church’s bell tower.

I found this church extremely inspiring thus I dedicated the whole post to it. I didn’t even see the incredible organ inside because the building was closing so we had to rush to the top then leave.

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Shadows cast a eery picture on the beautiful Vor Frelsers Kirke in Copenhagen.

The photo below is Mike and I at the top of the tower with the incredible view of Copenhagen below us. If you visit Copenhagen, climb your way up to the top and be inspired.

The view at the top of Vor Frelsers Kirke.

Is the Danish really Danish? (And other facts about Nordic Cuisine)

Suppose I told you the raspberry Danish pastry that we know and love in the USA didn’t originate with the Danish.  Blasphemy, you say.

No, it’s true. In Denmark pastries are called Weinerbrød (which translates to “Vienna bread”) after their origins in none other than Austria. In the 1850s bakers went on strike in Denmark, and the country hired some from Austria to fill in for them.  When the strike was over, the Austrians went home, but the recipes remained to be used and improved upon by the Danish.

Variations of these delectable pastries were everywhere on our recent stay in Copenhagen, and I found quite a slew of them in the bakery near our Airbnb rental.    Carolyn and I made quite a few bakery runs in the morning while we were staying outside of the city center.  I think we both enjoyed the brisk morning air watching the residents zoom by us on bicycles as much as we did the bakery itself.

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The Danish Hindbaersnitter is a delectable treat found at many bakeries in Copenhagen.

One look at the hindbærsnitter above and my brain started thinking about Pop-tarts.  But truth be told, the taste of the hindbærsnitter is so much better that it’s probably not fair to compare the Pop-tart to one.  These pastries literally fall apart in your mouth with their buttery goodness and then if you’re not careful, they’ll fall apart in your hands. The trick is to eat them fast. At least that’s what I did.  But in Copenhagen they are more of a special treat for children’s birthdays and not an everyday breakfast food.  Made from two thin buttery cookie-like pastries with raspberry jam in the middle, they are topped with a sugary glaze and decorated with the non-pareils. Very sweet and delectable!

Not so with the next item. It’s called rugbrød and forms the base of the open-faced sandwiches called “smørrebrød” that are a popular meal for many in Denmark. The bread is very dense and chewy, and the one below was served before our dinner and was quite good.  It was so rich that I was afraid to eat a whole piece before my dinner came.

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This dense bread forms the bottom of the open faced sandwiches called Smørrebrød popular in Denmark.

I was glad I refrained from eating the whole piece when I saw my dinner.  A pile of tiny shrimp, some raw tuna, pan fried fish with several different relishes, some tomatoes and some sour cream topped with fresh dill and I was in heaven. The yellow relish in the little dish was my favorite. The Danish call it “remoulade,” but it is very similar to our tartar sauce only it is sweeter, has larger chunks of sweet pickles and pickled onions in it, and has curry and yellow mustard for flavor and color.

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My first meal in Denmark was truly a treat.

One rainy evening we visited Torvehallerne, which is a food market in the center of Copenhagen. It has two glass enclosed sections with about 60 stalls between the two, which was perfect with the rain. We tried a real smørrebrød from Hallernes in this market and it was incredible.

IMG_0164The lady who waited on us said we were lucky we came late (around 4:30 p.m.) because the line had wrapped all around the place earlier. I believe it. The food not only looked beautiful, but it was pretty delicious.

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A wide variety of smørrebrød was available at Hallerne’s Smørrebrød.

While I was enjoying my smørrebrød, I noticed this bottle of Linie Aquavit from Norway sitting on the counter. IMG_0159I had to do some research when I saw the label saying it “matured at sea,” especially for my husband, Captain Mike, who would also love to mature at sea, although not in an oak sherry cask. Apparently aquavit is a Scandinavian liquor that has the taste of caraway seeds and fennel with notes of dill and anise. The Danish like to drink it with fish, and I didn’t realize until I got back to Croatia and actually researched it that I had had some aquavit in on a day trip to Helsingør that came free with the pickled herring I ordered. It was delicious together, and I’m not sure I would have enjoyed the pickled herring as much without it. So order some if you try pickled herring. You will thank me later.  Anyway, the Linie Aquavit travels all over rolling around on the sea in the barrels which gives it a really smooth finish.  I wish I would have tried it with the Salmon smørrebrød I ate at the market, although really good, I think it would have been even better.  You can see the small flute of it in the second picture below.  The first one is my plate of pickled herring, served with beets, mustard and pork fat (!!). The herring is hiding under the pile of fresh dill.

The Torvehallerne market itself is a must-see if you visit Copenhagen.  I’m told it is very busy throughout the year, but it’s worth hustling through a crowd to see all it has to offer. It also had some seating and produce booths outside the glass enclosure, which probably would be a nice place to hang out if the weather is good. Here are just a few pictures I took by the seafood section:

 

 

My next posts won’t be so food-oriented, but will be on a few of the places we visited in and around Copenhagen, including my husband’s favorite, The Viking Museum in Roskilde.  Hope you will wander along with us for the next leg of the journey.

There’s Nothing Rotten in Denmark

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“Hej” from Copenhagen!! (That’s hello in Danish and it’s pronounce “hi” with a little upward lilt at the end).  We wandered off from Pula on March 20 and spent the last week of March in the beautiful city of Copenhagen in Denmark.   From my time here I have come to the anti-Shakespearian conclusion which is the title of my blog today:  “There is nothing rotten in Denmark!”  It was an incredible place, and I wish we had been able to spend more than just a week there.

fullsizeoutput_3dffYou could argue the weather was a little rotten because it was so bitterly cold (below freezing for most days we were there), and a little dreary on some days, but by traveling in such inclement weather you get a good indication of what the Danish people are made of, and it is actually quite good stuff.

We rented an Airbnb in a little area right outside of the Copenhagen city limits and enjoyed the quiet streets and beautiful house we made our home for a week.  The owner Jesper was fantastic and made us feel very welcome even though he towered above us like a NBA player.  His height and friendly demeanor were quite common among the Danish, who were seen in freezing rain or sleet and snow, on bikes and pushing baby carriages through the bustling city of Copenhagen.

It was remarkable to us Southern folks who would be bundled up in front of a fireplace in weather like this to see hoards of people on bicycles everywhere in the city.  They carried babies in snowsuits on the front of their bikes with just their faces exposed, or zipped them tightly into baby carriages as the mothers leisurely strolled along the streets.  The moms shopped, they strolled, they stopped in the many cafes for coffee, and guess where many of them left their strollers (with the babies inside them!) ?— prepare yourself —- outside on the sidewalk.

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A Danish mom strolls along the streets of Copenhagen with baby in tow. Although sunny, it was 32 degrees on this beautiful day.

I’m told this is a common occurrence and nothing to be alarmed about (there is an extremely low crime rate and almost non-existent kidnap rate).  Several factors play into this custom but the main ones are: 1) Again, it is extremely safe in Copenhagen and 2) Danish (and many Nordic) mothers believe the fresh (albeit cold) air is good for babies and strengthens their immune system.  I did notice the large prams which held the babies were parked in front of large windows, so I’m sure a Danish mom or two would be checking to make sure the prams stayed put while they were in the cafe. Still though, it’s an extremely different custom than we are used to both weather-wise and safety-wise.

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A Danish dad brings young children to nursery school by bike on a blustery March day in Copenhagen.

Our host Jesper said his 12- year old can ride her bike home from the city at midnight and he has no fear for her safety.  Coming from New Orleans, this feeling of safety was quite surprising and reassuring at the same time.  Most of the bikes we saw that were not being used were sitting leisurely by the side of the street or leaned up against a fence without locks on them. What a great testament to safety to be able to leave your bike without fear of it being stolen.  The country on the whole has an extremely low crime rate with most of the crime taking place during the summer months when hoards of tourists descend on the beautiful city.

 

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Bikes sit unused by bus stops and against building walls throughout Copenhagen with no locks showing the trust Danish citizens have in their fellow citizens not to take them without permission.

The safety of the city and heartiness of the people are just two of the reasons I believe there is “nothing rotten” in this beautiful city.  I’ll have quite a few more posts on Denmark in the coming days as there is much to tell about this lovely country.  I’ll leave you with a picture of some of the delicious food I came across in Copenhagen to whet your appetite for my next post, “Is the Danish really Danish?”

 

 

Hej Hej for now!!! (That’s good-bye in Danish.) Now if only the rest of the Danish language was that simple.

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A sailboat frozen in place in the Kastrup Strandpark harbor in Oresund Sound on the day we arrived in Copenhagen.